It has been a little over forty days since Jesus returned to life. Forty days that the disciples rejoiced with him, broke bread with him, and were determined to get back on schedule. There are a lot of lost sheep that need rounding up, souls need tending, tyrants need a good shake, and no time to waste. I think that is, for the disciples, one of the more exciting points of Jesus’ resurrection. Yes, their rabbi is back. But more importantly, things can finally go back to normal. And we as creatures of habit love normal. We need it like oxygen. Those poor disciples had no clue what was coming next.
Don’t think of the early followers as silly or naive. We would have done the same. A news article came out this week that suggested NASA found a parallel universe where time goes backwards. And while it was debunked a few days later, it caused a small storm online. What if we could go backwards? Would we return to before we learned about giant murder hornets? To February, to tell past you to stock up on toilet paper, sourdough starter, and masks? How about 2015 to tell the world what we would be doing right here and right now? On and on the what-if game goes, as Twitter and Facebook tried to determine the best point to go back in time and get things right.
It is fantasy. We know this. I am more likely to find a sleeping dragon under my bed than to go back to the way it was before. And yet here I am, with millions and billions of people, wanting to go back to the way things were. Where I never heard about flattening the curve. To where I didn’t know or care about things like social distancing, or how to use Zoom, or even if I am able to safely hug my friends and family. How many of us got lost in a spiral of imagined scenarios this week, where we were out and in a crowded theatre, or bar, or preparing for the Pride Parade, or simply catching up with friends?
But, time does not go backward. We can only go forward, onward to the new reality of our world.
Much like Joni Mitchell, we have seen both sides of love, loss, reality, and fantasy. We know we can’t go backwards. We are forever changed by the events of our lives. The heartbreak of love lost. The knowledge that- and let’s be clear here- the world pre-Covid didn’t work for hundreds of millions of people who live in poverty, violence, and suffering. The world with Covid is not much better for them. We know the truth of the real world around us, how fragile our systems are and how they exploit the people on the bottom rung of the ladder. There is no ignoring this suffering. As Joni says, we really don’t know life, or love, after seeing the world as it is.
But, I ask, do we want to go back? Do we want to go back to the suffering and exploitation of others, of Creation? The heartbreak that comes from violence and poverty? Or do we want to do the wild thing, and go forward with Jesus? Christ, defeating tyranny, death, and joining the life beyond death, asks us to imagine something even bigger than the world around us. A world where every person is respected and affirmed, and every part of creation embraced. Where love, cooperation, the mercy of God is the ruling power of the day, not hatred and bigotry and greed.
We have seen a world broken. And Jesus has shown us a world healed. We have seen love, and I can’t go back. We don’t solve this in a day. The disciples, in their desire to go back to something normal, gathered and prayed, just as we are doing. Regroup, and gather strength from each other.Next week is Pentecost, where we hear what the disciples do with the knowledge that Jesus is Gone. Not dead, not away, but simply not walking in the front door again. Until then, we sit with them, with our friends, with Joni. We have seen both sides. We have felt pain, seen misery. We have also seen love and grace in action, felt the strength of a God that has made us in God’s image.
We have one choice; onward, my friends. Let’s see what world we can create with the Creator. Amen.